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Passenger numbers rise 26% in Saudi Arabia

King Abdulaziz International Airport: the number of international flights increased but there were less than 27.4 million international visitors to the kingdom last year Ayman Zaid/Alamy via Reuters
King Abdulaziz International Airport: the number of international flights increased but there were less than 27.4 million international visitors to the kingdom last year
  • Kingdom’s airports approach capacity
  • International flights up by 36%
  • Government claims to have met target

Saudi Arabia said this week that its total number of air passengers rose 26 percent to 112 million in 2023. This includes a 46 percent rise in the total number of international travellers to 61 million. 

The number means the kingdom’s airports are approaching full capacity, which is 116 million passengers a year, including 45 million in Riyadh and 35 million in Jeddah, the Saudi Press Agency said, citing a government report. 

The number of international flights to the kingdom rose 36 percent from the previous year to 394,000, it said. The figures appear to include all flight tickets, including transit.  

The numbers closely track the 106 million figure that the government has given for the total number of domestic and international tourists in 2023 – a number that comprises individual flights made. 

That led the government to say it had achieved its target of 100 million tourists by 2030, which has now been revised to 150 million. 

The kingdom’s aim is for tourism to cover 10 percent of non-oil GDP as part of the country’s massive economic transformation programme

But total international visitors last year were less than 27.4 million, almost half of which was religious tourism.

The government said earlier this year it achieved 100 million visitors in 2023 but that figure includes total flights made into the country, including domestic and international journeys by residents. 

Dubai is the region’s busiest airport with 86.9 million passengers in 2023, close to its 90 million capacity, but other airports are racing to go beyond that, including Riyadh with a planned terminal for its new flagship carrier, Riyadh Air, due to open in 2030.

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